by Mary Ann Burns
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has discovered that more than 90 percent of American children consume too much sodium. Foods such as chicken nuggets, pizza and pasta account for almost half of their sodium intake, according to the study.
The CDC researchers interviewed and examined 2,266 children ages 6 to 18 as part of the ongoing “What We Eat in America,” the dietary survey of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Overall, the study found that 43 percent of children’s sodium come from foods frequently marketed to kids at restaurants and grocery stores. Savory snacks, deli meats, breads, soups and cheeses were also on the list of items with high sodium.
The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg of sodium a day for all Americans for ideal heart health. On average, kids ages 2-19 eat more than 3,100 mg sodium per day, and the older children get, the more calories and sodium they tend to eat. Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and several other serious health problems.
The CDC study found that the risk for high blood pressure among overweight and obese youths rose 74 percent for every 1,000 milligrams of increased sodium intake per day. That compared to only a 6 percent increase among normal-weight young people.
High blood pressure is one of several diseases that once appeared mainly in adults but has become much more common in youths during our childhood obesity epidemic. In fact, one in six kids have elevated blood pressure and approximately 90 percent of all Americans will develop hypertension over their lifetime. Uncontrolled blood pressure can cause damage to arteries, heart and other organs. And because high blood pressure is symptomless, it can go untreated. The American Heart Association recommends that all children have yearly blood pressure measurements.
Independent of its effects on blood pressure, excess sodium intake adversely affects the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels. Excess sodium intake has also been linked to kidney stones, asthma, osteoporosis, and gastric cancer.
A kid’s preference for salty-tasting foods are shaped early in life, but parents and caregivers can help lower sodium by influencing how foods are produced, purchased, prepared and served. The American Heart Association offers many resources such as Life’s Simple 7 For Kids, tips and recipes that you can use to decrease sodium and improve your family’s overall health.
Eating more of these potassium-rich foods can lower your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
by Brian Miller
One of the biggest problems with the traditional American diet? Too much sodium, too little potassium. Studies suggest boosting your potassium intake and curbing salt and sodium can slash your stroke risk by 21% and may also lower your odds of developing heart disease. Potassium, a mineral, works by protecting blood vessels from oxidative damage and keeps vessel walls from thickening. Adults should aim to get 4,700 mg of potassium a day. (Too much potassium, usually from supplements, can be dangerous, so try to get your intake from healthy eating unless a doc says otherwise.) These delicious foods can help you reach your goal.
Surprise—sweet potatoes, not bananas, rank highest on the list of foods that are high in potassium. One sweet potato packs a whopping 694 mg of potassium and only 131 calories, plus loads of fiber, beta-carotene, and energizing carbs. Baked, fried, grilled, mashed, or stuffed, sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest and most delicious foods you can eat.
Fresh tomatoes are great, but tomato paste and puree are better sources of potassium. One quarter cup of tomato paste delivers 664 mg of this vital mineral, while one half cup of puree comes in at 549 mg. Tomato juice itself has just over 400 mg. So if you love cooking with tomatoes and want to get more potassium into your diet, make spaghetti sauce more often!
If you've ever bought fresh beets and tossed the greens in the garbage, time to change your ways. Those cooked, slightly bitter greens deserve a place at the table in part because they pack a whopping 644 mg of potassium per half cup. Antioxidant-packed beets are also a great source of folate, raw or cooked!
White beans lead the pack when it comes to potassium, with half a cup delivering nearly 600 mg, but kidney and lima beans, as well as lentils and split peas, are all respectable sources. All beans are good for your heart and appear prominently on our list of the 20 best foods for fiber so it's smart to make beans a much bigger part of your diet.
Eight ounces of plain old non-fat yogurt contains 579 mg of potassium, while low-fat, whole milk, and cultured buttermilk—yogurt's tangy cousin—have a little less. Delicious ways to use yogurt include mixing it with granola at breakfast, using it instead of mayo on sandwiches and in salads, and swapping it for whipped cream on desserts. Bonus: Most yogurt products contain probiotics, natural bacteria that can aid digestion and keep your gut healthy.
Canned or fresh, 3 ounces of clams pack 534 mg of potassium and have the highest concentration of vitamin B12 of any food. Use them to make seafood pasta or traditional New England clam chowder.
Prune juice is no joke when it comes to potassium, delivering 530 mg per 3/4 cup; half a cup of stewed prunes have nearly 400 mg. While you know prunes are good for regularity, you may not know that eating more of these dried plums can help keep your bones strong too. In one study, women who ate10 prunes a day had significantly higher bone density than women who ate dried apples.
The juicing trend means more people will be getting their potassium from carrot juice, which packs over 500 mg in one 3/4 cup. Besides their potassium benefits, carrots and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables are also great for your eyes and vision.
Looking for a nutrient-packed alternative to sugar or honey? One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses (the thick, dark kind) has nearly 500 mg of potassium and a respectable amount of iron and calcium.
Meaty fish like halibut and tuna have nearly 500 mg of potassium per 3 ounce serving, but cod and even farm-raised rainbow trout have plenty of potassium too. But potassium isn't the only reason to add more fish and seafood to your diet. Evidence is mounting that regularly eating fish, not taking fish supplements, can increase your lifespan, thanks in large part to the healthy fats in fresh fish; a high fish diet can even reduce your risk of death by heart disease by 35%, according to Harvard researchers.
Unprocessed soy products (think edamame, not soy powder) are a great source of protein and can also fight inflammation in the body. Bonus: half a cup of cooked soybeans have nearly 500 mg of potassium.
Winter squash like spaghetti squash are a dieter's dream: it has less than 50 calories per serving, yet contains plenty of vitamin A and filling fiber. But winter squash is also a great source of potassium, with 448 mg per half cup.
Everyone thinks of bananas when they think of high-potassium foods, and one medium fruit does pack more than 400 mg of this heart-healthy mineral. But bananas are also the ultimate hunger buster, packed with Resistant Starch, a healthy carb that fills you up and helps to boost your metabolism.
Milk is a surprising source of potassium, with 382 mg per cup for the non-fat or skim version (1% and whole milk has a little less). If you're not a fan of milk, try adding this high-calcium fluid to smoothies and healthy milkshakes.
One of the healthiest additions to your breakfast table, 3/4 of a cup of orange juice delivers 355 mg of potassium. Orange juice, especially the fresh-squeezed variety, is a good source of calcium, folate, and several B vitamins.
Published: Jul 2, 2015
By Keith Ayoob EdD, RD
For decades, dietary guidelines recommended about 2,300 mg/day of sodium for most people. Sodium has for years been thought to be linked with hypertension, and it was often present in a lot of foods people didn't need to be eating too often, so the available evidence pointed to the 2,300 mg level.
Enter the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The available evidence that was reviewed by the DGA Advisory Committee (DGAC) found that if sodium is really restricted, you get a little more bang for your buck. They still recommended 2,300 mg/day in general. But certain groups, particularly people over age 50 and African Americans of any age, are at higher risk for hypertension, and for them a stronger restriction was indicated. They said the evidence indicated you could reduce blood pressure an extra 3 or 4 mmHg if you take in only 1,500 mg/day of sodium. And that's what they recommended.
That's really strict and rough for anyone but the most sodium-phobic person to follow. A standard "low-sodium" hospital diet is often 2,000 mg/day, so this is 25% less than that for tens of millions of people. It's not very realistic for free-living citizens.
This level of sodium restriction is possible, but not palatable for most people. And "possible but not palatable" is never a good approach to changing people's eating styles. A 1,500 mg sodium diet would essentially mean that you've already had your last condiment, that eating out would be a near fantasy, and that most cookbook recipes would need serious altering. Living as I do in New York, the land of Mom's chicken soup, lox, and mile-high pastrami sandwiches, I knew these sodium recommendations were basically D.O.A. for New Yorkers.
Maybe 1,500 mg/day of sodium isn't really that necessary. A recent study looked at not only the influence of dietary sodium but also of potassium on the blood pressure of adolescents, with the objective of shedding some light on risk factors for hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life. The study has good credibility -- it's part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Growth and Health Study that looked prospectively at 2,185 adolescent girls, white and black, starting at ages 9 and 10. The researchers looked at intakes of both sodium and potassium but also at the sodium-to-potassium ratio, not just absolute amounts of each. And, of course, they looked at their systolic and diastolic blood pressures throughout the study, following them for 10 years.
The study found no evidence of adverse effects on blood pressure from sodium intakes above 3,000 mg/day or even above 4,000 mg/day.
Now it gets interesting. Higher potassium intakes were strongly associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure both throughout the adolescent period and at follow-up. A higher potassium to sodium ratio was also linked with lower diastolic pressure, but not as strongly as for total potassium intake.
So, should we be thinking about sodium intake and blood pressure for our patients? Probably, but we ought to be giving equal attention to potassium intake -- think more fruits and vegetables.
Of course, sodium affects more than blood pressure and another recent review looked at the effects of elevated sodium intakes on organ systems. The authors of that review point out evidence that even in the absence of hypertension, higher sodium intakes can negatively impact function of the kidneys, heart, and endothelial issue, leading to arterial stiffness, and even more so in the presence of elevated blood pressure. The authors were responsible in noting that many of the studies have significant weaknesses, but they also made a case for reducing sodium regardless of whether someone is hypertensive or not.
I doubt we've heard the last word on sodium intake and our health, and as a clinician I have to weigh all the evidence and develop some practical solutions that won't send patients running for the hills.
Before even discussing sodium with patients I make every effort to get enough high-potassium foods into their diet as possible, not just for better blood pressure but because these are really nutrient-rich foods anyway. We're speaking about most fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy ones, citrus, berries. But also potatoes (yes -- even white potatoes are loaded with potassium) and even milk, a huge potassium source (on par with bananas). Getting enough of these, especially for snacks, will likely push out some of the salty junk in patients' diets and make a trade-up in quality of diet. If they make these changes, they'll have an easier time hitting that sodium target of 2,300 mg/day.
And if they choose wisely the rest of the day, 2,300 mg of sodium still allows for a bowl of Mom's chicken soup.
Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, is an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Ayoob disclosed relationships with McCormick Spice Institute, Hass Avocados, Calorie Control Council, the Walt Disney Company, Monsanto, and the Milk Processor Education Program.
Many Americans Trying to Cut Their Salt Intake: CDC
Overall, half of adults surveyed recently said they were trying to avoid sodium
By E.J. Mundell
Thursday, July 2, 2015
THURSDAY, July 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Worried about links between high daily salt intake, high blood pressure and stroke, half of American adults questioned in a recent poll say they've tried to cut back on sodium.
The survey of more than 180,000 people from 26 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., found -- perhaps not surprisingly -- that people already diagnosed with high blood pressure were more likely to shun the salt shaker.
"Excess sodium intake is a major risk factor for hypertension, and subsequently, heart disease and stroke, the first and fifth leading causes of U.S. deaths, respectively," noted a team of researchers led by Dr. Jing Fang of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Under current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the general population is advised to keep daily salt intake under 2,300 milligrams, or about a teaspoon. For people over 51, blacks and those with health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the recommended daily sodium intake is 1,500 milligrams or less.
The new report suggests that messages on reducing salt intake may be getting through. In response to the question, "Are you currently watching or reducing your sodium or salt intake?", just over 50 percent of respondents said "Yes."
But the number of affirmative answers varied widely based on residence, Fang's team noted. While more than 73 percent of Puerto Ricans said "Yes" to lowering salt intake, and 58 percent did in North Carolina, that number dropped to about 39 percent in Utah and about 41 percent in Minnesota, the study found.
People who knew they had high blood pressure were much more likely to be trying to cut down on salt. For example, 80 percent of Puerto Ricans with hypertension said they were avoiding salt, as were about 72 percent of people with high blood pressure in Kentucky and New Jersey, the CDC researchers found.
In contrast, just 39 percent of people in Kentucky without hypertension said they were trying to cut down.
The good news, said the CDC team, is that efforts to avoid salt appear to be highest in areas where rates of high blood pressure are also high.
But they believe much more could be done by health care professionals to inform patients of their risk. When asked if a doctor or other health care professional had ever urged them to watch their salt intake, only 14.5 percent of survey respondents in Utah said "Yes," and the rate never rose above 41.4 percent (Puerto Rico) in any site included in the survey.
Besides saving lives, reducing salt intake -- and its impact on heart disease and stroke -- could ease the burden on the U.S. health care system as well, the CDC team said. Looking at projections for 2010 to 2030, they estimated that "reducing sodium intake by 1,200 milligrams daily is projected to save $18 billion in health care costs yearly."
The study was published in the July 3 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, July 3, 2015
Copyright (c) 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Too Much Salt: How A Diet Too High In Sodium Can Affect Your Heart, Brain, And Even Bone Health
Apr 28, 2015 07:00 AM By Dana Dovey @danadovey
Salt has always been of high importance to humanity. In ancient Egypt, salt was an integral part of religious ceremonies, and the Moors in Africa would trade salt pound for pound with gold. Part of our adoration for salt, however, lies in its main ingredient, sodium. (It's also composed of chloride and iodine sources.) According to the American Heart Association, about 75 percent of the sodium we consume comes not from the salt shaker, but rather in processed and restaurant food.
Our Love Affair With Salt
Sodium is essential to human health. The mineral helps to regulate fluids by letting the body know when it’s time to replenish or dispose of water. Along with that, sodium also maintains nerve transmissions and muscle contractions — functions vital to our survival. As a result, our bodies evolved a desire for sodium akin to addiction to ensure that we never went without enough.
A 2011 Australian study found that the brain responds to sodium similar to how it does for substances such as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine, which may explain why so many of us tend to overindulge in high-sodium foods. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing can actually prove deadly.
Your Brain On Salt
A 2011 Canadian study on 1,200 older sedentary adults with normal brain function found that over the course of three years, high-sodium diets were linked to increased risk of cognitive decline. This result was “independent of hypertension and global diet quality” and “suggests that sodium intake alone may affect cognitive function in sedentary older adults above and beyond the effects of overall diet,” the researchers wrote.
The reason why sodium is detrimental to the brain is not fully understood, but according to Dr. David L. Katz, a researcher involved in the study, physical exercise may be able to protect the brain from the effects of too much salt, Medscape reported.
Sodium plays a key role in balancing the levels of fluid in our bodies by signaling to the kidneys when to retain water and when to get rid of water. A high-sodium diet can interfere with this delicate process and reduce kidney function. The result is less water removed from the body, which may lead to higher blood pressure. As explained by The World Action on Salt and Health, this excess strain on the kidneys can lead to kidney disease or exacerbate kidney problems in those already with the condition.
High-sodium diets may also increase your risk of developing renal stones, also known as kidney stones. The main cause of kidney stones is urinary calcium, a mineral which is noted to increase in those with high-sodium intake.
Excessive calcium excretion in the urine is believed by some experts to increase the risk of bone thinning. According to WASH, over long periods of time, this excessive calcium loss is associated with osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women.
Due to salt’s fluid retention effect, in some individuals excessive amounts of salt in their diet can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood, and high blood pressure can lead to many serious conditions, such as stroke and heart failure. Although blood pressure increases naturally with age, according to the American Heart Association, reducing your salt intake can help prevent your blood pressure from increasing too much.
Excessive salt in the diet can cause a symptom known as edema. As reported by Medical News Today, edema is characterized by swelling, particularly in the hands, arms, ankles, legs, andfeet, caused by fluid retention. Excessive salt consumption commonly causes edema; however, the symptom can be caused by a number of other health concerns ranging from menstruation to genetic disposition. Edema is non-life threatening and is a symptom of another underlying health condition, rather than a condition on its own.
While edema may be an extreme symptom of excessive salt consumption, even something as simple as having an extra-large popcorn the night before can leave your skin looking a bit puffier than usual. Dr. Neal B. Schultz, a dermatologist practicing in New York City, told Shapethat susceptibility to swelling due to salt consumption increases with age.
A 1996 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that death from stomach cancer in both men and women was closely linked to salt consumption. High salt intake is also associated with stomach ulcers. The reason for this is not completely understood, but one study theorized that the salt may have an adverse effect on the mucous lining of the stomach and cause the stomach tissue to become abnormal and unhealthy, according to Livestrong.
Article Written by Dana Dovey
Dana Dovey is a reporter for Medical Daily and is currently based on the exotic Island of Long.
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL | Trusted advice for a healthier Life | FOCUS ON Blood Pressure | ISSUE #8 OF 8 IN AN E-MAIL SERIES (October 16, 2014)
Should we all cut back on salt—regardless of our blood pressure level? Download PDF
Most of the sodium in our diet comes from salt, or sodium chloride. Sodium has many important functions in the body, including:
transmitting nerve impulses
contracting and relaxing muscle fibers
maintaining proper fluid balance.
But Americans get much more than they need—3,400 mg of sodium per day, on average. (See the chart below for recommended intake.)The kidneys regulate the body's sodium level by getting rid of any excess. But if there's too much sodium in the bloodstream, the kidneys can't keep up. Excess sodium in the blood pulls out water from the cells. As this fluid increases, so does blood volume. That means more work for the heart, increased pressure in the blood vessels, and often, eventually, stiffened vessel walls, chronic high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Current recommended intakes of sodium for healthy adults by age group
Group Adequate intake (AI) of sodium* Salt equivalent Upper limit (UL) of sodium intake**
Ages 19-50 1.5 g/1,500 mg 3,800 mg, or2⁄3 teaspoon (tsp.) 2.3 g/2,300 mg (equivalent to 5.8 g/5,800 mg, or 1 tsp., salt)
Ages 51-70 1.3 g/1,300 mg 3,200 mg, or ~½ tsp. Less than 2.3 g, but a precise amount has not been determined
Ages 71 and over 1.2 g/1,200 mg 2,900 mg, or ½ tsp.
*The average amount needed to replace sodium lost daily through sweat while providing enough other essential nutrients.
**UL may be higher for people who lose large amounts of sodium in sweat, such as athletes and workers exposed to extreme heat.
Source: Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate, National Academies Press (2004).
Some people are especially sensitive to sodium—their blood pressure rises and falls directly with their sodium intake. That puts them at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, even if they don't have high blood pressure. It also means that they particularly benefit from restricting sodium intake.
Those most prone to salt sensitivity include:
people with hypertension
people with diabetes
people with chronic kidney disease.
What about the rest of us?
As many as one in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Many more have "prehypertension," which means that while they don't have high blood pressure yet, they're likely to develop it. Many studies have shown that blood pressure is directly related to dietary sodium, so it makes sense for at-risk individuals to cut back. But what about the rest of us?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that limiting sodium intake should be just about everyone's concern. In a 2009 study, CDC researchers concluded that 70% of American adults should aim for a sodium intake of no more than 1,500 mg per day. People who fell into this group of about 145 million people included:
everyone over age 40
all African Americans
people with hypertension.
Some public health experts believe the 1,500-mg-per-day cap should be extended to everyone. Others say that proposal ignores other factors influencing blood pressure. Almost everyone agrees that we couldn't reach the 1,500-mg limit without reducing the amount of salt in processed and prepared foods—the main source of dietary sodium.
Sources of sodium
Most of the sodium we eat comes from restaurant meals and processed foods, including canned vegetables and soups, pasta sauces, frozen entrees, luncheon meats, and snack foods.
Sodium is also found in many condiments besides ordinary table salt—including soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salad dressings, ketchup, seasoned salts, pickles, and olives. Baking soda, baking powder, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) also contain sodium.
What do the studies show?
Many studies have investigated links between sodium intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Some of the most compelling evidence has come from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trials.
The first DASH trial showed that a diet rich in the following could lower blood pressure:
low-fat dairy products
In a follow-up trial, this diet was compared with one closely resembling the average American diet, and both diets were further divided into three sodium levels: high (3,500 mg/day), moderate (2,400 mg/day), and low (1,500 mg/day). More than 400 volunteers followed their assigned diets for 12 weeks, changing their sodium intake every four weeks.
Across the board, less sodium intake led to lower blood pressure. The DASH diet with sodium restricted to just 1,500 mg per day worked best for all participants. And for people with hypertension, it was almost as effective as medication.
The researchers concluded that we could all benefit from reducing our sodium intake. But the study did little to quell controversy over the issue. Critics charged that it was too brief to justify a general recommendation, and they warned of health risks from insufficient sodium in the diet. Proponents say that's unlikely, because most human beings don't even need as much as 1,500 mg a day for good health. Of course, this 12-week study couldn't predict the impact of reduced sodium intake on the risk of cardiovascular disease down the road.
A 2007 follow-up study to the Trials of Hypertension Prevention (TOHP) provided a longer-term perspective. The original TOHP study involved two randomized trials of lifestyle interventions conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A team led by Harvard researchers tracked down the original TOHP participants and found that those who had permanently lowered their sodium intake to between 2,000 and 2,600 mg per day and continued to watch their salt intake had almost 30% fewer cardiovascular events, including death, in the following 10 to 15 years.
The TOHP trials didn't require drastic dietary changes. Instead, the volunteers learned how to look out for hidden salt and avoid it. Those who were able to reduce their salt intake by one-third to one-half teaspoon per day reaped the cardiovascular benefits.
One size doesn't fit all
The controversy about universal salt restriction will probably continue. As in most health matters, one size doesn't fit all. How salt affects your blood pressure and health depends on many things, including your:
What to do
If you're under age 50, your blood pressure is in the healthy range (under 120/80 mm Hg), and your health is good, you have little reason to worry about your dietary sodium intake, at least for now. Still, try to limit it to no more than 2,300 mg per day.
The risk for high blood pressure rises with age, so you'll do yourself a favor if you wean your taste buds from a yen for salt. Research has shown that people who slowly reduce their intake find that they eventually prefer less salt.
If you're older, obese, African American, or have diabetes, you may be salt-sensitive. Most experts agree people in these categories should cut back. Keep your sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.
If you have hypertension, prehypertension, kidney disease, or heart failure, keep your sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.
If you're hypertensive or prehypertensive or just want a healthy eating plan, consider following one of the three diets that were tested in the OmniHeart trial. The first is the DASH-like diet explained in this PDF published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The second was high in unsaturated fats, and the third was high in protein. (See www.omniheart.org for specifics.)
Results showed that all three diets lowered blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and reduced the risk of heart disease. (The high-unsaturated-fat and high-protein diets improved cholesterol levels and blood pressure even more than the DASH diet, which was higher in carbohydrates.)
The health benefits of these eating plans can't be attributed to any single ingredient—the magic is probably in the mix—but one reason they work is that they're rich in potassium. Potassium has been shown to be beneficial to blood pressure.
Whatever diet you follow, make sure it includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain little or no sodium and are an important source of potassium. Potassium-rich choices include bananas, orange juice, cantaloupe, spinach, avocado, and sweet potato.
HIGHLIGHTS: "...you need to consume only a tiny amount of sodium each day." and "Simple ways to control sodium"
Conquering your salt habit. (Download Full PDF). Salt — sodium chloride — is essential for survival. Your body depends on sodium to transmit nerve impulses, contract muscle fibers, and, along with potassium, to balance fluid levels in all your cells.
The body is so efficient at conserving this vital mineral that you need to consume only a tiny amount of sodium each day. Too much sodium sets off a cascade of physiological changes that can raise blood pressure. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can stress the heart and blood vessels.
Simple ways to control sodium
The Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health teamed up with the Culinary Institute of America to create two dozen science-based strategies for cutting back on salt — without compromising the flavor of the foods you enjoy. Here are five of those tips.
Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Our bodies need more potassium than sodium. But most Americans’ diets are just the opposite, which can contribute to high blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium, and many fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium. Filling your plate with them will boost your potassium and shift the sodium-potassium balance in your favor.
Embrace healthy fats and oils. Unfortunately, the big low-fat and no-fat product push in the 1990s wasn’t rooted in sound science. Many well-meaning product developers cut both the good and bad fats out of formulations, and in order to maintain consumer acceptance of their products, they were forced to increase levels of sugar and sodium. So skip most fat-free salad dressings and other similar products, and you’ll be doing your blood pressure a favor.
Stealth health. The average person can’t detect moderate changes in sodium levels, including reductions of up to as much as 25%. Many food manufacturers and restaurant companies have already made or are in the process of making substantial cuts in sodium — some all at once and some over time — that their customers will not be able to detect.
Retrain your taste buds. We can shift our sense of taste to enjoy foods with lower levels of sodium. One key to success: make the changes gradually and consistently over a period of time, rather than trying to cut back by a large amount all at once. Try this trick: combine a reduced-sodium version of a favorite product (like vegetable soup, for example) with a regular version in proportions that gradually favor the reduced-sodium version.
Watch out for hidden sodium. “Fresh” and “natural” meats and poultry may be injected with salt solutions as part of their processing, and manufacturers are not required to list the sodium content on the label. Some foods that are high in sodium may not taste especially salty, such as breakfast cereals, bakery muffins, energy drinks, and sports drinks.
For additional strategies for cutting back on salt and other ways to prevent and treat high blood pressure, buy Hypertension: Controlling the “silent killer” a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
© 2000-2014 Harvard University. All rights reserved.
Infographic from the American Heart Association (also available here).
Provides compelling consumer survey results regarding the desire for less sodium in processed and restaurant foods, that most consumers underestimate the amount of sodium they consume, and primary sourced of sodium intake.
WASHINGTON—The vast majority of parents of school-age children support strong national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during school, according to a poll released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the American Heart Association (AHA). The findings come as school districts implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards, which set basic limits on the fat, salt, and calories in foods and beverages sold through vending machines, school stores, and a la carte cafeteria menus.
The nationally representative poll assessed parents’ opinions of nutrition standards for both school meals and snack foods and beverages. Among the findings:
Most parents favor nutrition standards for all food served in schools.
72 percent favor national standards for school meals.
72 percent support standards for school snacks.
91 percent support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.
75 percent think salt should be limited in meals.
The majority of parents are concerned with the state of children’s health (80 percent) and with childhood obesity (74 percent).
Most parents hold a mixed or negative opinion of the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages traditionally sold in schools and consider them to be only somewhat or not at all healthy. This applies to foods sold a la carte (69 percent), in school stores (72 percent), and in vending machines (81 percent).
The Agriculture Department’s “Smart Snacks” standards, which took effect on July 1, 2014, represent the first major updates to national guidelines for school snack foods and beverages in more than 30 years. To meet the standards, a snack food must be a fruit, a vegetable, protein, dairy, or whole grain; have fewer than 200 calories; and be low in fat, sodium, and sugar. These guidelines follow similar nutrition standards for school lunches that took effect during the 2012-13 school year and are being met by approximately 90 percent of school districts.
Research has shown that both student health and school food service revenue can benefit from selling healthier snack foods and beverages. For example, a health impact assessment conducted by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project found that when schools implement healthier standards for snack and a la carte foods, students are more likely to purchase a school meal—a change that improves children's diets and school budgets at the same time, because schools earn reimbursements for meal sales.
The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates and Ferguson Research. Data were collected via telephone surveys between June 19 and 28, 2014, among registered voters who are parents of public school students.
Pew, RWJF, and AHA are jointly supporting efforts to ensure all foods and beverages in schools are healthy. The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is a collaboration between Pew and RWJF. Voices for Healthy Kids is an initiative of RWJF and AHA, with Pew providing additional expertise.
The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project provides nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations on policies that affect the safety and healthfulness of school foods. The project is a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more at www.healthyschoolfoodsnow.org.
Voices for Healthy Kids is a national advocacy initiative focused on uniting the movement to prevent childhood obesity. A collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association, the initiative seeks to help reverse the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic by 2015 by ensuring children have access to healthy foods and beverages, as well as safe opportunities for physical activity. Learn more about the childhood obesity epidemic and how you can help turn it around at www.voicesforhealthykids.org.
The media contact for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is Melissa Blair (609-627-5937, email@example.com) and the media contact for the American Heart Association is Suzette Harris (214-706-1207, firstname.lastname@example.org).
ORIGINAL SOURCE: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/about/news-room/press-releases/2014/09/08/parents-support-healthier-school-food-policies-by-3to1-margin
Excessive sodium consumption has dire impact on global health, new study finds
AHA President Elliott Antman calls findings on global sodium-related deaths “staggering”
August 13, 2014 Categories: Advisories & Comments
DALLAS, Aug. 13, 2014 – Excessive sodium consumption is having a dire impact on global health, killing about 1.65 million people every year, according to a new study released Thursday.
The research published in the New England Journal of Medicine adds important evidence to a larger recent discussion about how much sodium people should consume and what kind of impact that has on health, said American Heart Association President Elliott Antman, M.D.
“We have new research indicating that the blood pressure effects of excess sodium can be directly related to cardiovascular disease risk,” said Antman, who is also a professor of medicine and Associate Dean for Clinical/Translational Research at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Antman said the new study by Dariush Mozaffarian M.D., Dr.P.H. and colleagues was “a staggering finding.”
"About 1 in 10 cardiovascular deaths were estimated to be attributed to sodium intake of greater than 2,000 milligrams per day,” Antman said. “This is a level exceeded by 99.2 percent of the world’s adults, on average. In the U.S. alone, almost 57,600 annual cardiovascular deaths are attributed to sodium intake at this level.”
The American Heart Association recommends less than 1,500 milligrams per day for ideal heart health, but most Americans consume more than twice that much.
Another study released Thursday, called PURE, questions the link between excessive sodium intake and health risks. However, Antman said PURE contained several substantial methodological issues that limit its usefulness for drawing conclusions about the relationship between sodium intake and health outcomes, and for guiding public health recommendations.
PURE is an observational study that attempts to link dietary sodium intake with subsequent cardiovascular diseases, Antman said. “Interpreting the results of these types of studies was particularly challenging because results can be highly dependent on the types of data collected (and not collected) and the types of analyses performed,” he said.
Antman said these issues include inaccurate measures of sodium intake and inclusion of sick people. The issues are detailed in the American Heart Association’s February 2014 Science Advisory.
“The AHA has been concerned about the quality of these studies and strongly believes that other types of evidence, particularly the well-documented clinical trial relationship of sodium intake and blood pressure, provide the best scientific basis to guide policy,” Antman said.
“The bulk of the available evidence to date shows reduced sodium intake is associated with reduced blood pressure, which itself is associated with a reduction in cardiovascular event,” Antman said. “Along with improving overall diet, controlling weight, and increasing physical activity, lowering sodium intake is key to lowering blood pressure in the general population and improving blood pressure control in those with hypertension.”
The American Heart Association and numerous major national and international public health and scientific organizations have carefully and repeatedly reviewed the evidence and will continue to recommend reducing sodium intake.
The AHA recently launched a new campaign to help consumers lower their sodium intake, and recently more than 30 leading scientists affirmed that the full scope of the evidence continues to anchor the scientific basis for reducing sodium intake.
“Excess dietary sodium intake exacts a tremendous toll on our societies and economies around the world,” Antman said. “Now is a time for action, not hesitation.”
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Discover sneaky sodium sources, the right daily intake and more
By Karen Ansel, RD
It's time to set the record straight: Sodium (a component of salt) is not bad in itself. You do need to consume some for nerve and muscle functioning, but too much can harm your heart. Salt makes you retain water—and that extra fluid can boost your blood pressure, driving up your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The right amount is…
The American Heart Association recommends that all Americans aim to consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Some experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, think you can safely eat a maximum of 2,300 mg (the amount in 1 tsp salt) if you're healthy and under age 51. If you're older, are African-American or have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, everyone agrees your daily cap should be 1,500 mg. But the truth is, most people exceed both of those numbers (the average person eats 3,400 mg per day), so reducing your intake is a smart move.
Identify sneaky sources
Keeping an eye on how much salt you sprinkle on your food is a good start (salt is about 40% sodium). However, a whopping 77% of sodium comes from packaged foods—and the number-one sodium source is bread. Even though bread only racks up about 150 mg a slice, Americans eat so much that it adds up quickly. Other top offenders include canned soups, frozen dinners and deli meats. Sodium also hangs out in seemingly healthy items like sports drinks and cottage cheese.
Since you can't always see (or taste) the sodium in processed foods, reading labels is a must. Make sure that foods contain no more than 500 mg per serving and compare brands to look for low- or no-sodium versions of canned vegetables, beans and cottage cheese. Buying fresh produce can help: The less processed a food is, the less likely it is to be swimming in sodium.
Too much sodium may also weaken your bones. A recent study found that postmenopausal women who had the most sodium in their diets were four times as likely to experience bone fractures as those who ate the least.
Most of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt, and the vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. Too much sodium is bad for your health. It can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack and stroke. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in the United States.
In addition to excess sodium intake, other factors also influence blood pressure and the risk for heart disease and stroke. These factors include
Current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that adults in general should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. However, if you are in the following population groups, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food.
The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population overall and the majority of adults. Nearly everyone benefits from reduced sodium consumption. Eating less sodium can help prevent, or control, high blood pressure. To learn more about sodium in your diet, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/Sodium/index.html.
Find out how much sodium you really need, what high-sodium foods to avoid, and ways to prepare and serve foods without adding sodium.
If you're like many people, you're getting far more sodium than is recommended, and that could lead to serious health problems.
You probably aren't even aware of just how much sodium is in your diet. Consider that a single teaspoon of table salt, which is a combination of sodium and chloride, has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. And it's not just table salt you have to worry about. Many processed and prepared foods contain sodium.
See how sodium sneaks into your diet and ways you can shake the habit.
Sodium: Essential in small amounts
Your body needs some sodium to function properly because it:
Your kidneys naturally balance the amount of sodium stored in your body for optimal health. When your body sodium is low, your kidneys essentially hold on to the sodium. When body sodium is high, your kidneys excrete the excess in urine.
But if for some reason your kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to build up in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases, which makes your heart work harder and increases pressure in your arteries. Such diseases as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can make it hard for your kidneys to keep sodium levels balanced.
Some people's bodies are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than are others. If you're sodium sensitive, you retain sodium more easily, leading to fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If this becomes chronic, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure.
Sodium: How much do you need?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you're age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Keep in mind that these are upper limits, and less is usually best, especially if you're sensitive to the effects of sodium. If you aren't sure how much sodium your diet should include, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
Sodium: What are the major dietary sources?
The average American gets about 3,400 mg of sodium a day — much more than recommended. Here are the main sources of sodium in a typical diet:
Tips for cutting back on sodium
Virtually all Americans can benefit from reducing the sodium in their diet. Here are more ways you can cut back on sodium:
Sodium: Be a savvy shopper
Taste alone may not tell you which foods are high in sodium. For example, you may not think a bagel tastes salty, but a typical 4-inch (10-centimeter) oat-bran bagel has about 600 mg of sodium, and even a slice of whole-wheat bread contains about 100 mg of sodium.
So how can you tell which foods are high in sodium? Read food labels. The Nutrition Facts label found on most packaged and processed foods lists the amount of sodium in each serving. It also lists whether the ingredients include salt or sodium-containing compounds, such as:
Try to avoid products with more than 200 mg of sodium per serving. And be sure you know how many servings are in a package — that information is also on the Nutrition Facts label.
Sodium: More tips to cut back
The supermarket is full of foods labeled "reduced sodium" or "light in sodium." But don't assume that means they're low in sodium. For example, a can of chicken noodle soup that claims to have 25 percent less sodium still has a whopping 524 mg in 1 cup. It's only lower in salt compared with regular chicken noodle soup that has more than 790 mg of sodium in a cup.
Here's a rundown on common sodium claims and what they really mean:
Go low and take it slow
Your taste for salt is acquired, so you can learn to enjoy less. Decrease your use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust.
After a few weeks of cutting back on salt, you probably won't miss it, and some foods may even taste too salty. Start by using no more than 1/4 teaspoon of salt daily — at the table and in cooking. Then throw away the salt shaker. As you use less salt, your preference for it diminishes, allowing you to enjoy the taste of the food itself, with heart-healthy benefits.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 017-14
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Jean Weinberg/Veronica Lewin: (347) 396-4177, PressOffice@health.nyc.gov
American Heart Association:
Cathy Wilkins: 212-878-5930, Cathy.Wilkins@heart.org
Meredith Coon: 212-878-5947, Meredith.Coon@heart.org
Health Department and American Heart Association Bring Together 34 of The World’s Leading Scientists to Affirm That Sodium Reduction Is Key to Reducing Cardiovascular Disease
June 24, 2014 – The Health Department and the American Heart Association have brought together 34 of the world’s leading scientists to affirm the benefits of reducing population sodium intake to reduce heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in New York City and the United States.
“There is consensus among leading scientists around the world that there is a well-established link between sodium intake and blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “In order to address the number one cause of death, we must continue to work to reduce the sodium content in our food supply.”
“It’s challenging for Americans to stick to sodium intake recommendations because most of the sodium we eat in this country is added to our food before we buy it,” said Elliott Antman, M.D., president-elect of the American Heart Association. “Decades of education and awareness about sodium reduction have not adequately moved the needle. In order to really make a difference in the health of all Americans, we must reduce sodium in the food supply through the support of food manufacturers, food processors and the restaurant industry.”
The recommended daily limit of sodium intake according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 2,300 mg per day, however the vast majority of Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg per day, about 50% more than that. Nearly 80% of this sodium consumption comes not from the salt shaker but from packaged and restaurant food. It is estimated that each year 92,000 deaths could be averted and up to $24 billion health care costs saved by reducing sodium intake nationally.
Consensus Statement on Sodium
Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, are leading causes of death in the United States. Influencing the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease provides an opportunity to improve Americans’ health, which in turn can prevent illness and disability, reduce health disparities, save lives and reduce healthcare costs. Considering the full scope of research, the undersigned affirm the scientific basis for lowering current sodium consumption levels in the U.S. population.
Public health recommendations are made after weighing all of the evidence, including studies of greater and lesser strength of design and some with conflicting results. A vast body of research, including observational studies, feeding studies, and randomized controlled trials, indicates that lowering sodium intake lowers blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. After reviewing evidence on sodium intake and cardiovascular disease outcomes, the Institute of Medicine recently concluded that reducing population sodium intake would have a positive effect on public health. This is consistent with the compelling body of evidence from laboratory, clinical, and population research that together establishes that high sodium intake causes increases in blood pressure.
We conclude that the evidence is clear. Population-wide reduction of sodium intake is an integral approach to reducing cardiovascular disease events and mortality in the United States.
Cheryl Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor of Epidemiology, University of California San Diego
Elliott M. Antman, MD, MACC, FESC, FAHA
Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Clinical/Translational Research, Harvard Medical School; Senior Physician, Cardiovascular Division of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital; President, American Heart Association, 2014-2015
Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH
C. David Molina, MD, MPH Chair in Medicine, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and International Health (Human Nutrition), Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Gary Beauchamp, PhD
Director and President, Monell Chemical Senses Center
Norman R.C. Campbell, MD
General Internist and Professor of Medicine, Community Health Sciences and Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Calgary
Simon Capewell, MD, DSc
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Liverpool
Francesco P. Cappuccio, MD, MSc, DSc, FRCP, FFPH, FAHA
Cephalon Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine & Epidemiology, Consultant Physician, University of Warwick
Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD
Chairman and Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine
Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, FACC, FAHA
Chair, National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention; Professor of Clinical Medicine, Tulane University School of Medicine
Christopher Gardner, PhD
Professor of Medicine (Research), Stanford Prevention Research Center
Feng J. He, PhD
Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London
Jiang He, MD
Joseph S. Copes Chair and Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Mariell Jessup, MD, FAHA, FACC, FESC
Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Heart and Vascular Center; President, American Heart Association, 2013-2014
Michel Joffres, MD, PhD
Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH
Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Biostatistics & Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Darwin R. Labarthe, MD, PhD, MPH
Professor in Preventive Medicine-Epidemiology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Mary R. L'Abbe, PhD
Earle W. McHenry Professor and Chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc
Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy, Director and Senior Scientist, Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, Tufts University
Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, FACC, FAHA
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research; Director, Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute; Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine Professor of Preventive Medicine and Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Graham MacGregor, MA, MB, B.Chir
Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London; Chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH
Dean, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Bruce Neal, MB ChB, PhD, FRCP, FAHA
Senior Director, The George Institute for Global Health and Professor of Medicine, University of Sydney
Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN
Professor and Olemberg Chair of Neurology; Executive Director, McKnight Brain Institute; Chief of Neurology, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami
Frank Sacks, MD
Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Nutrition Department, Harvard School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Channing Division of Network Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham & Women's Hospital
Lynn Silver, MD, MPH
Senior Advisor for Chronic Disease and Obesity, Public Health Institute
Jeremiah Stamler, MD
Professor Emeritus, Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH
Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
Lyn M. Steffen, PhD, MPH, RD
Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
Mary Story, PhD
Professor, Community & Family Medicine and Global Health, Duke University
William M. Vollmer, PhD
Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research
Myron H. Weinberger, MD
Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University
Paul K. Whelton, MB, MD, MSc
Show Chwan Professor of Global Public Health, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Walter Willett, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
Kevin Willis, PhD
Executive Director, Canadian Stroke Network
We welcome additional scientists who publish in this field and agree with this statement to contact the NYC Health Department to become a signatory: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the impact of high sodium on health, ways of reducing sodium in your diet, and national initiatives on sodium reduction visit www.nyc.gov/health/salt
The Truth About Sodium by Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D. as seen in Eating Well Magazine. Download pdf here.
*Original article taken from Health Day News.
Heart disease is the biggest killer of American women and men. But, it’s also a preventable disease in many cases.
With February designated American Heart Month, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, offers 10 tips for reducing your risk of cardiovascular trouble:
Know your numbers:
Tests will give you insight into your risk for heart disease. Keep track of your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, hemoglobin A1C (blood sugars) and inflammatory markers.
Watch your diet:
“Research has shown a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil — consistent with the Mediterranean diet — can decrease the incidence of heart disease by 30 percent, whereas diets high in saturated fats and simple sugars can increase the risk of heart disease by 30 percent,” Steinbaum said. “Paying attention to what you are eating is one of the major cornerstones of keeping your heart healthy.”
American Heart Association guidelines recommend two and a half hours of cardiovascular exercise per week, Steinbaum said. Exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and other medical conditions.
Manage your stress:
“Stress takes a toll on the heart, increasing hormones throughout the body [that are] associated with the ‘flight-or-fight syndrome,’ leading to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure,” Steinbaum said. “It can also increase the stress hormones, such as cortisol, which causes inflammation, all leading to heart disease. We all have stress in our lives, and managing it is a large part of being heart-healthy.”
Master the art of well-being:
Positive emotions such as optimism can lower your risk of heart disease, and laughter is helpful too, Steinbaum said. It boosts the immune system, decreases stress and lowers blood pressure.
Keep your arteries healthy:
“Foods like dark chocolate, berries, tea and red wine … help to dilate the arteries, decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol and prevent clotting,” Steinbaum said. “If there is stiffness to the lining of the arteries, called the endothelium, then you are at risk to develop heart disease. An EndoPAT test, which is a noninvasive test assessing the function of the endothelium, can alert you if you are a candidate for building up plaque in the arteries of the heart, which can lead to heart attack.”
Be aware of gender differences in heart disease:
If you’re concerned that you have symptoms of heart disease, seek help and call 911. Some women are hesitant about getting assistance because they worry they may be wrong. “Always be safe rather than sorry,” Steinbaum said. For women, signs of heart disease can be subtle: shortness of breath, jaw pain, back pain, nausea, vomiting, sleep disturbances or fatigue.
Talk to your family:
Get information about your family’s medical history. “Although heart disease is due to lifestyle choices 80 percent to 90 percent of the time, a significant family history is critical to know,” Steinbaum said. “If you had a mother with heart disease [when she was younger than] 65 years old, or a father with heart disease [at younger than] 55 years old, early diagnosis and prevention is key. The earlier you know, the more chance you have to change your outcome and be in control of your potential destiny.”
If you’re a woman, consider your pregnancy history:
If you had high blood pressure or elevated sugars during pregnancy, you are at higher risk of heart disease.
Be proactive about screening tests:
“If you have multiple risk factors for heart disease or a strong family history, get screened … to determine your real risk of heart disease,” Steinbaum said. “If [your test results] are abnormal, then your risk goes up and aggressive prevention should start immediately, whether it is lifestyle changes or medication. Having the information empowers you to make a difference in the rest of your life’s heart health. It is worth getting the information.”
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